Travel money Switzerland 2021: How to pay & how much to bring

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Travel money guide: Switzerland

What every traveler needs to know about how to spend finding the right travel money product to use in Switzerland.

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Whether you plan on skiing the Matterhorn or exploring the historical Basel Munster church, you’ll need to organize your travel money before you arrive in Switzerland. If you’re not sure where to start, use our travel money guide to compare money options and plan your budget before your big vacation.

Because Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, they use the Swiss franc instead of the euro. As a political and economic center of Europe, Switzerland boasts a huge international population with banking and financial services the center of their industry. You won’t have any problems finding ATMs, banks and merchants that take credit cards all over the country. Most businesses accept Mastercard and Visa, and you’ll find less that will take your American Express and Diners cards. Read on for a comparison of products you can use in Switzerland without the fees for international transactions.

Our picks for traveling to Switzerland

American Express® Gold Card logo

Our pick for travel credit card

American Express® Gold Card

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5
Transferwise Multi-currency logo

Our pick for multi-currency debit card

Transferwise Multi-currency

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.5/5
SoFi Money logo

Our pick for 0% transaction fee debit card

SoFi Money

★★★★★
Finder rating: 4.6/5

Travel card, debit card or credit card?

There are a number of ways to access your money when you’re on vacation, and it’s best to use a combination of of products. Credit cards give you money when you need it and can cover you in a financial emergency. Debit cards are good for access to your cash, without all the traveling fees.

Whether you’re heading to Switzerland to hit the slopes or simply to enjoy the culture, be sure to get your spending budget in order before you leave so you can hit the slopes with no worries.

Visa and Mastercard branded cards are accepted in more places than American Express and Diners cards throughout Switzerland. Look for logos at ATM point of sale terminals to be sure. Switzerland has a modern banking economy — it is their primary industry — so you won’t need lots of cash on your travels. If your card has a chip you’ll be able to make contactless payments.

These are your options for spending money in Switzerland

Using a credit card

A travel credit card gives you access to a line of credit, and you won’t pay for currency conversion when you transact in francs. Compare cards that offer no foreign transaction fees and offer rewards. We don’t advise making a withdrawal on credit as cash advance charges apply and you’ll start paying an APR the day the transaction is made. Consider travel extras such as insurance or an increased rewards for travel when you’re comparing credit cards to use overseas.

  • Tip: Some providers waive cash advance charges when you keep a positive balance and make ATM withdrawals. Find out which providers let you do this and which won’t.
Pros
  • No currency conversion fees
  • Features such as insurance or reward points earning
  • Some offer no foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance
  • Rewards program may cost more than they are worth

Using a debit card

A debit card lets you spend and withdraw in Switzerland like you would at home. Find a debit card that waives the international ATM withdrawal fee and you can make free ATM withdrawals when you use an ATM offered by a Swiss bank — European and Swiss banks don’t charge ATM fees. The Charles Schwab could be a handy product to use in Switzerland, With no conversion or ATM fees, this card can save you money.

  • Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.
Pros
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • In case you lose your card, block transactions with a phone call
  • It’s easy to find ATMs in Switzerland
  • Comes with a back up card
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • Money back guarantee for fraud
Cons
  • No back-up card if you lose it on your trip
  • Some charge currency conversion and ATM fees

Using a prepaid travel card

There are no prepaid travel cards that hold Swiss francs. Usually, the advantage of these cards is you can hold multiple foreign currencies at a time and save on currency conversion fees. A travel card makes sense if you’re spending your time in the Eurozone (France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain etc) and the UK, but if you’re spending the majority of your time in Switzerland, you’ll pay for currency conversion when you spend in francs.

The currency conversion fee can be double the charge applied to most credit cards and debit cards. Travel money products can charge the Visa or Mastercard rate plus 4.5% for currency conversion and charges for international ATM withdrawals. So, regardless of which product you choose, you’re going to pay for currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals — or both when you use a travel card in Switzerland.

Pros
  • Hold multiple foreign currencies at a time
  • Save on currency conversion fees
Cons
  • Not able to load Swiss francs
  • Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
  • You’ll pay ATM fees

Paying with cash in Switzerland

It’s cheaper to get your cash exchanged in Switzerland than in the US, and even cheaper still with a no-fee ATM card. If you do have US dollars or euros you need to exchange in Switzerland, bureaux de change outlets can be found at airports and train stations. You can also change your money at a bank, which will give you the most competitive rate for changing cash, and shouldn’t charge a commission either.

  • Tip: Some large retailers will accept euros — though a majority will not. If you use euros, you will get a worse rate than paying with the local currency.
Pros
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks are an outdated way to travel with money — it’s far easier and cheaper to use an ATM. If you do have traveler’s checks, you can cash your them at exchange offices in train stations or a bank. Exchange offices offer the same rates as banks; however they may charge a commission for the transaction.

  • Tip: Banks are open during regular business hours Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.
Pros
  • Accepted at most banks and hotels
  • Security
Cons
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 6 months
4x at restaurants including delivery and Uber Eats; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points) and 3x points on directly-booked flights
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries.
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on up to $1,000 on groceries until April 30, 2021, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 plus up to $50 statement credit towards groceries with this popular travel card.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
75,000 points after spending $5,000 in your first 6 months, plus 10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined purchases in the same timeframe
10x points at US gas stations and US supermarkets on up to $15,000 combined in the first 6 months, 5x points on directly-booked flights on up to $500,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on other purchases
$550
One of the most valuable premium travel cards, featuring two welcome offers worth up to $4,500, multiple travel credits and unrivaled lounge access. Terms apply, see rates & fees
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Swiss currency

10 Swiss Francs20 Swiss francs50 Swiss francs
100 Swiss francs200 Swiss francs

The main banks in Switzerland are:

  • UBS
  • Credit Suisse
  • Swiss Raiffeisen
  • Zurich Cantonal Bank
  • Julius Baer
  • Banque cantonale de Genève
  • Vontobel
  • Migros Bank AG
  • Bank J. Safra Sarasin
  • EFG International

Buying Swiss francs in the US

It’s cheaper to exchange your US dollars once you arrive in Switzerland, either at a bank or an ATM. If you do want francs before you arrive you can get money changed at any of the providers listed below. There are ATMs at every international airport (Zurich, Geneva, Basel etc), which should eliminate the need to change currency in the US.

Live Rate

= Fr 0.9307

Refreshing in: 60s | Sat, Mar 06, 06:24PM GMT

ATMS in Switzerland

Cash pickup services in Switzerland

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.926 CHF 922 WorldRemit sends money to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposits, cash pick-ups or mobile top-ups. Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 0.91 CHF 902 MoneyGram has fast cash pick-up transfers to more than 350,000 agent locations worldwide. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 0.907 CHF 889 Western Union sends money online to friends and family in 200+ countries around the world. Show details

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Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

How many francs do I need to bring to Switzerland?

Yes, the rumors are true, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, and, according to some estimates, the most expensive country in the world to live. You can plan to spend anywhere from $75 to $400 a day, depending on what adventures you seek.

ZurichBudgetMidrangeExpensive
AccommodationHostel
$45–$100 per night
2 star hotel
$100–$250 per night
5 star hotel
$250–$800 per night
MealsSwiss sausage sandwich plus a pint of beer (street food)
$15
Noodle house (restaurant)
$30 per dish
Michelin star restaurant
$100 or more per person
ActivitiesRent a bike and ride around the city
Rental is free + $30 deposit
Entry to the Kunsthaus Gallery
$35 per person
50-minute massage for 2 at exclusive day spa
$350

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change

Exchange rate history

The Swiss Franc is one of the most stable currencies in the world and definitely one of the most valuable. Since the Global Financial Crisis, the value of the US dollar has dropped against the Swiss franc. The past few years, 1 USD is worth about 0.90 CHF.

Case study: Bart snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland

Bart goes to Switzerland every couple of years to snowboard. He splurges on a six day heli-skiing package in Verbier, which is recognized as providing the best off-piste snowboarding in the world. He says he gets to the mountain from Geneva and, when he’s done, takes a little side trip to Berlin and then to Paris before flying home. He uses Swiss francs in Switzerland and euros in Germany and France. He spends about three weeks to a month in Europe each time he visits.

What’s your recommendation about travel money for Switzerland?

Bart says if you’re conscious of cutting out the fees for international transactions, you can’t find a better card than the Charles Schwab debit card, which is the account he’s had for years. It doesn’t charge international ATM fees, currency conversion fees or an account keeping fee.

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